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What Are Buyer Personas? Why Do You Need Them? And How Do You Create Them?

While marketers often work to produce content that both differentiates them and describes the benefits of their products and services, they often miss the mark on producing content for each type of person that is buying their product or service.

For instance, if your prospect is seeking a new hosting service, a marketer focused on search and conversions may be focused on performance while the IT director may be focused on the security features. It’s critical that you speak to both – and often requires that you target each with specific advertisements and content.

In short, it’s about segmenting the messaging of your company to each of the type of prospects you need to speak to. Some examples of missed opportunities:

  • Conversions – A company focuses on content that’s getting the most attention on their site rather than identifying the personas that are actually driving conversions. If 1% of your site’s visitors turn into customers, you need to target that 1% and identify who they are, what compelled them to convert, and then figure out how to speak to others like them.
  • Industries – A company’s platform serves multiple industries, but the generic content on their site just speaks to businesses in general. By not having industry in their content hierarchy, the prospects that are visiting their site from a specific segment aren’t able to visualize or conceive how the platform will help them.
  • Positions – A company’s content speaks directly to the overall business results their platform has provided but neglects to single out how the platform assists each job position within the company. Companies make purchase decisions collaboratively, so it’s essential that each position impacted is communicated to.

Instead of focusing on your brand, products, and services to develop a hierarchy of content that positions each, you instead look at your company from the eyes of your buyer and build out content and messaging programs that speak directly to their motivation for becoming a customer of your brand.

What are Buyer Personas?

Buyer personas are fictional identities that represent the types of prospects that your business is speaking to.

Brightspark Consulting offers this infographic of a B2B Buyer Persona:

Buyer Persona Profile

Examples of Buyer Personas

A publication like Martech Zone, for example, serves multiple personas:

  • Susan, the Chief Marketing Officer – Sue is the decision-maker when it comes to technology purchases to assist her company’s marketing needs. Sue uses our publication to both discover and research tools.
  • Dan, the Marketing Director – Dan is developing the strategies to best implement tools to assist their marketing and he wants to keep up on the latest and greatest technologies.
  • Sarah, the Small Business Owner – Sarah doesn’t have the monetary resources to hire a marketing department or agency. They are looking for best practices and inexpensive tools to improve their marketing without breaking their budget.
  • Scott, the Marketing Technology Investor – Scott is trying to keep an eye out for the latest trends in the industry that he invests in.
  • Katie, the Marketing Intern – Katie is going to school for Marketing or Public Relations and wants to better understand the industry so she can get a great job when she graduates.
  • Tim, the Marketing Technology Provider – Tim wants to keep an eye out on partner companies that he might integrate with or competing services.

As we write our posts, we’re looking to ensure we’re communicating directly to some of these personas. In the case of this post, it would be Dan, Sarah and Katie that we’re focused on.

These examples, of course, aren’t the detailed versions – they’re just an overview. The actual persona profile can and should go much deeper in insight as to every element of the persona’s profile… industry, motivation, reporting structure, geographic location, gender, salary, education, experience, age, etc. The more refined your persona, the clearer your communication will become in speaking to your prospective buyers.

A Video on Buyer Personas

This fantastic video from Marketo details how buyer personas help them to identify gaps in content and how to accurately target an audience that’s more likely to purchase your products or services. Marketo advises the following key profiles that should always be included in a Buyer Persona:

  • Name:  A made-up persona name may seem silly, but it can be useful for helping a marketing team discuss their customers and make it more tangible for planning how to reach them
  • Age:  The age or age range of a persona allows for understanding generation-specific characteristics.
  • Interests:  What are their hobbies? What do they like to do in their spare time? These types of questions can help shape the theme of the content that they are likely to engage with.
  • Media Usage:  The media platforms and channels they use will impact how and where they can be reached.
  • Finances:  Their income and other financial characteristics will determine what types of products or services they’re shown and what price point or promotions might make sense.
  • Brand Affinities:  If they like certain brands, this can provide hints as to what kind of content they respond well to.

Download How To Create A Buyer Persona and Journey

Why Use Buyer Personas?

As the infographic below describes, using buyer personas made sites 2 to 5 times more effective by targeting users. Speaking directly to specific audiences in your written content or video works extremely well. You may even wish to add a navigation menu on your site specific to industry or job position personas.

Using buyer personas in your email program increases click-through rates on emails by 14% and conversion rates by 10% – driving 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails.

One of the most important tools a marketer has for creating the types of targeted ads that result in increased sales and conversions – like the kind seen in the case of Skytap – is the buyer persona. To learn more about what buyer personas are and how they can improve your marketing campaign results, check out Single Grain’s newest infographic – Target Acquired: The Science of Building Buyer Personas.

Buyer personas make build marketing efficiency, alignment and effectiveness with a uniform target audience when communicating with potential clients through advertising, marketing campaigns, or within your content marketing strategies.

If you have a buyer persona, you can hand that off to your creative team, or your agency, to save them time and increase the likelihood of marketing effectiveness. Your creative team will understand the tone, style, and delivery strategy – as well as understand where buyers are researching elsewhere.

Buyer Personas, when mapped to the Buying Journeys, help companies identify the gaps in their content strategies. In my first example where an IT professional was concerned about security, now third-party audits or certifications could be included in marketing and advertising material to put that team member at ease.

How to Create Buyer Personas

We tend to start with analyzing our current customers and then work our way back to a wider audience. Measuring everyone simply doesn’t make sense… remember most of your audience is never going to purchase from you.

Creating personas may require some heavy research on affinity mapping, ethnographic research, netnography, focus groups, analytics, surveys, and internal data. More often than not, companies look to professional market research companies that do demographic, firmagraphic, and geographic analysis of their customer base, then they perform a series of qualitative and quantitative interviews with your customer base.

At that point, the results are segmented, information compiled, each persona named, the goals or call-to-action communicated, and the profile constructed.

Buyer Personas should be revisited and optimized as your organization shifts its products and services and acquires new customers that don’t naturally fit into your current personas.

How to Create Buyer Personas

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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